Community college used to be where students went to start their academic career, often for less money than they’d pay to attend a four-year school. If you wanted vocational training, or a degree that would transfer to another, longer program, community college was the place to start. But in California, at least, community colleges might soon offer four-year programs — in high-demand concentrations.
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Why would traditionally two-year schools expand? In short, demand.
“Currently, state public institutions award slightly more than 110,000 bachelor’s degrees each year and private institutions award 40,000. To meet the projected demand by 2025, the state would need to immediately increase the number awarded by almost 60,000 per year — about 40 percent above current levels,” says a recent report by the California Community College Baccalaureate Degree Study Group.
“I see almost no downside to it,” says Constance Carroll, chief executive of the San Diego Community College District, an in interview with SFGate. “This is about workforce preparation. The universities don’t have programs in many of these areas, and if they do, they lack the capacity.”
In January, lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees in several technical disciplines, such as nursing. If it becomes law, California will be part of a nationwide trend: Frank Gornick at The Fresno Bee points out that 50 U.S. community colleges so far offer bachelor’s degrees “that address documented shortages in the work force.”
As governments try to address the skills gap between what workers know and what employers need, and students try to get a better bang for their tuition bucks, we can expect more programs of this nature.
Good news for students, and good news for the country waiting eagerly for qualified workers to fill hard-to-hire jobs.
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